This weekend, Gwyneth Paltrow did a question-and-answer session on Instagram stories. One fan posed the question of whether she’s still on good terms with her ex-partners and in response, she wrote:

"Pretty much. I really believe in conscious uncoupling. When you spend meaningful time with someone, it’s nice to have it morph into friendship. I don’t want to have bad blood with anyone, ever (if I can help it).”


I go back and forth in my mind about what my personal reaction is to this. It sounds ideal, but it also sounds like a lot of work. To be fair, my collection of exes is probably much larger than hers (and most peoples) because I’m a serial dater. But still, when you think about how much work it takes to maintain an actual friendship with even a handful of peopleit’s pretty impressive that she can say this. Sure, she credits much of this to her belief in conscious uncoupling. But how realistic is conscious uncoupling, anyway? 

I’ve been incredibly optimistic about breakups, only to discover that pain and heartbreak manifest in a lot of ways. I also notice that it can take years to get to a better place with people you’ve dated, and a lot of that depends on the circumstances surrounding your breakup. In the days, weeks and months following a split, sometimes that pain is so raw that being friends with someone you once loved in a romantic capacity is almost more painful than not having them in your life at all.

If it’s a case of two people amicably parting ways due to growth, a change in location, or something like that, sure, friendship isn’t off the table. But what about in cases where there’s infidelity? Toxicity? There’s a lot more nuance to this than she lets on. Is friendship just grabbing coffee every few months? Commenting on each other’s pages? Or are we attending birthday parties and weddings like Prince William is?


Over the weekend, he attended his ex’s weddingwithout Kate! It may have raised some eyebrows, but since they dated in 2000, Rose Farquhar has been considered his first love. Over the years, she’s kept close ties to the family and was even at Harry and Meghan’s wedding.

Situations like this get me thinking about what the new partner feels like. Was Kate absent because she was at home taking care of the kids? Or was she just so put off by the idea of attending the wedding of someone your husband and the father of your children knocked boots with? If it’s the latter, I’m right there with you, sis!

For the most part I haven’t been with a lot of people who maintain close ties to their exes. When I did find myself in a situation where my partner and his ex were so close, it started to feel like was the outsider in my own relationship. I joked about being the nanny or au pair, but those jokes started to seem more like very serious concerns from a place deep inside me that I wasn’t paying enough attention to and over time, it chipped away at my sense of self. 


For me, it was the first time navigating being with someone who came from a previous marriage. And much like Gwyneth, I didn’t want any “bad blood”. So I sat, awkwardly at family functions, feeling like a total outsider, but telling myself I was just happy to be included. Time went on, boundaries remained murky, and every day became an uphill battle. 

By Gwyneth’s definition of “conscious uncoupling”, I’d say these two had gone that route. There was counselling, therapy, all attempts made to ensure they could co-parent effectively – and they did a great job at it. But there were days when I asked how much of this was about coparenting and how much of it was about them wanting to hold on to what was comfortable, even if it meant it was at my expense.

We’ve seen situations like this before. Scott Disick and Kourtney Kardashian were super amicable after their last split. But when Travis Barker came into the picture, it was difficult for everyone to navigate what to do with Scott. He had been around for ages, he was “part of the family”, but Kourtney finally stood up to her family and made her boundaries clear.


When it comes to remaining friends with exes, though it has been therapeutic in the past to sit and revisit memories and exist outside of the chaos of certain relationships, I’ve drawn a hard line in the sand. I mentioned before that I’m enrolled in a masterclass about how to heal after toxic relationships. One huge focal point is the importance of going “no contact”. It’s one of the instructions given to women (but applies to everybody) trying to get out of a relationship they find themselves stuck in. It encourages people to hit the block button, remove the contact, unfollow on social media – and avoid page creeping.

None of this advice lends itself to maintaining a friendship. And perhaps that explains the range of emotions and reactions I have to Gwyneth’s preference to maintain amicable relationships. But I know that the reason for “no contact” to be part of someone’s healing plan is because most people simply aren’t ready to be friends. Mustering up the courage to walk away from something is already hard enough. Who needs the reminders of what your ex is up to, what party they were at, and who they’re dating? 

Time apart can be great to regain control of your emotions. But just like riding a bike, they come right back. If maintaining a friendship with an ex is possible and not painful, great! But if you’re trying to avoid looking like a bitch, or maybe you’re afraid of looking “bitter”, toss those notions out the window. It’s not about any of that, neither is it about “bad blood”, it’s about protecting your peace, which we must do at all costs.